Monday, October 23, 2006

Why Quality of Light?

Ten years ago, I took off on a solo adventure around-the-world. By the end of 1996, I found myself living in Dublin, Ireland. By the time I moved to Europe I had traveled a fair amount, but this was my first experience living outside of California.

During my year in Eire, I entertained romantic notions of writing a book about my impressions. My imagination was most active during my commute to American Express Travel, where I interned and later worked for less than $3 an hour. I'd ride the double-decker bus to Grafton St., staring out of the wet and fogged up window, seeing my life as a low budget indie film. I'd think about the way I felt, and make a mental notation of my 5 senses:

smell - wet wool coats that reeked of goat and cigarettes.
touch - nubbly everything - nubbly cold-weather clothes, giant nubbly cobble-stoned lanes, nubbly rod iron fences with layers and layers of textured and peeling paint.
taste - toasted grainy fresh bread with melting butter and a chunky slice of Irish cheddar, black tea with milk and sugar, Heinz baked beans, white or cheese sauce on any and every vegetable - steamed broccoli, steamed cauliflower, boiled potatoes - you name it, and meats stewed with dried fruit, like pork and apricots.
Hearing - sound was oddly different. My focus was rarely on the unique twang of the 236 different dialects in Dublin alone, or the Irish pub music that is ubiquitous in this country. Although I have a very specific soundtrack of music that I associate with my time in Dublin (The Stone Roses, Spiritualized, Sleeper, Oasis, Blur, Prodigy, and pervasive pop music like Boyzone and the Spice Girls), it is rarely featured in the background when I screen a movie of memory in my head. Instead, I hear the incessant sound of rain, hard and faint, which is more like white noise - almost like starring in a silent film.
Sight - Finally, there are the visuals. From the window of a moving vehicle, the streets are a blur of the varied grays of cement, stone, and Georgian homes. This almost dull expanse is patched with the deep green of grass and leaves, and dotted with highly-lacquered doors in marigold yellow, fire-engine red, midnight black and racing car green. Bits of blue sky and streaky clouds create another quilt overhead, and the white gold sun fights to make a welcome appearance.

When I try to express what was truly different about living in Ireland, it is honestly not the culture that comes first to mind, but rather the quality of light. I am (or was) a Southern California girl, not only used to heat, but also accustomed to the bright light of sunny days, with a golden sun high above my head. In Ireland it never felt like the sun was directly above me, warming my shoulders. It always felt like the sun was shining from an angle, off to the side, off-kilter. Even in the summer, I don't recall any blinding sunshine that required sunglasses. It was as if there was a filter surrounding the Emerald island, that softened the strength of the suns' rays. This different 'quality' of light had a subtle effect on my psyche, making me more introverted and pensive. I have since noticed that a change in the way I visually look at my life is often accompanied by a literal change in the light. Perhaps, this is why sunrise and sunset are such thoughtful times in most humans' lives? If we take the time to actually watch the sun rise or set, it usually renders us silent, and this is as close to a 'spiritual' or meditative moment that many of us will know. My limited experimentation with drugs had a similar cerebral effect, and when you consider how much a person's 'trip' is shaped by how the world visually appears (especially on hallucinogens) this makes perfect sense. Being high or being drunk effects your eyesight, the quality of light, and makes you look at things in just that slightly twisted way. When I delivered Stella, the euphoria I felt as she exited my body, also changed the way my environment looked. In my birthing story, I wrote, "What I remember the most is a change in the quality of light. As she was laid on my belly, the room took on a golden and fuzzy glow."

Those moments when I have become acutely aware of my environment and have taken the time to notice and evaluate my present state and surroundings, have led to growth and sometimes even epiphanies. I chose 'Quality of Light' as my blog's name, hoping that the title will act as inspiration (or at least occasionally represent) my efforts to closely observe and write about some of life's' more golden nuggets.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Mom said...

Great name, great logic.
love you, Mom

9:12 PM  

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